The sky above Trondheim was grey and overcast. The Nidelven flowed lazily through its crooked bed and through the Elvehavn, between Bratoren and Lademoen in the rippling fjord. The old city, the cradle of the Norwegian Reich, showed little life and the trees in the park behind the Fruekirke and the Kongsgaarden reported yet with bare branches against the opaque cloud cover. Still this late-winterly Trondheim was beautiful. Upon the city lay the mood of a historical tradition and the old buildings showed testament to the skills of the elder northern architecture. The shipyards and factories elsewhere heralded by the industry and the vitality of a settlement, which had been burned repeatedly and yet was still completely undaunted, newly purchased. The port, or the lively hub of international trade and much loved port for Norwegian travelers, was now in the fifth year of the Second World War deprived of its determination. In Elvehavn and Ydrehavn, aside from some Norwegian fishing vessels, lay only some smaller units of the German Kriegsmarine. The mouths of the guns stood out into the open bay and the thin tubes of the Flak-quartet threatened against the western half of the sky prepared. From the elevation of the district Baklandet also lay the old Norwegian artillery-barracks at its foot, rising high like a silent doom up the long steel fingers of the Flak. To the locals, military life in the city had already become a habit. They also showed no more particular curiosity when German cars entered the harbor or left it. But one could see that they showed no particular love for the occupation of their country, yet they were quite polite and made no troubles and one could even see they were impressed by the accuracy and discipline of the Germans.
For this reason a few of the locals were now polite aside as two German flight officers with the rank of captain came out from the Theater-Café at the corner of Prinsensgade and Erling Skakkesgaade. The Germans tipped their caps in thanks and went in the direction of the By-Bridge.
“We actually had some more time, Günther”, said one of them, throwing a quick glance at his watch. “Captain Gutmann only comes in an hour with the car!”
The addressed, Captain Recke from Kassel, motioned slightly with his hand. “It’s better if we come earlier to the agreed meeting point. Gutmann is able and could drive without to the airport without us.”
“You’re right,” replied the second officer, Captain Reimer, “Gutmann’s capable of anything. He’s a good comrade, but sometimes very strange.”
They crossed the intersection of Munkegaden and saw before the cathedral a three-man strong patrol coming up which greeted them slackly. This time the two officers also lifted their hands in a German salute, as regulations prescribed for about a year.
“Yes, we still have the war firmly in hand. But news from the front, especially from the East, isn’t very encouraging,” replied Recke thoughtfully, “There probably isn’t even enough boot polish anymore – damn tough!”
Reimer, who came from Linz, nodded. “The sparrows are have already whistled from their roofs… but there must be some sense in that we’re still here in the north. It looks as if it there’s only five minutes till midnight. And whether the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht wants to wait with a change of location until about one or two before twelve? …”
“I see it as if we’re to come back into play after then,” Recke muffled his voice even more, “The official information on the Alpine fortress being under quick construction and the secret bases in Greenland suggest certain things aren’t ready to use yet. Only then would our presence here be understandable.”
“I wish you were right,” replied Reimer.
“Namely, that we come into play at all?”
“Are you already such a pessimist?”
“Yes and no! – And I don’t trust that we’ll stand the whole world, which stands in its entirety against us, on its head. But for that we’ll need enough ammunition and fuel, and above all a political event. With prohibitions and ammunition restrictions, you can’t win anymore victories. And in this respect it seems very windy.”
“Why’re you telling me what the whole troop knows anyhow?”
“Because you’re out to confuse my pessimism with defeatism,” Reimer made pinched lips.
Recke grabbed reassuringly on the arm of a comrade. “I know exactly what you mean, Reimer! Who could shut themselves from the facts already? Still, I’m hoping for a miracle…”
“It looks as if we’ll only hope. We don’t have much else with which one could start something up. It’s only a flickering flame, but I still carry this tiny light in my heart.”
Both were silent. They went over the By-Bridge and turned left to the Rosenborg basin. Once again walking between rows of houses, they heard the screeching of the gulls still that swept over the waters of Elvehavn. There and again fluttered some of the white birds over the roofs of the neighborhood.
They stood still before the Bakkekirche. “If Gutmann is on time, we won’t have to wait much longer,” Reimer took up the suspended conversation again.
Recke nodded, “Gutmann’s a pedantist. If he’s not stopped without any fault, it comes sooner than later.” He fumbled at his fur collar to get his neck free. With the course of the winder the cold had already waned considerably.
They’d gone only twice before the church square as a jeep of the German Wehrmacht from Bakkegaden in Kirkegaden made a sudden turn and with sudden brakes stopped before them.
“Ah, Gutmann!” The officers saluted casually.
Captain Gutmann waved invitingly, “Just got here, gentlemen! There’s still enough space to sit in the car, you just have to tighten your legs a little. There are some nice boxes sitting there I don’t want to throw out because of you.”
Recke was the first in the car. He inspected the cargo which consisted of several small boxes from which some straw peeped out comically. In black stenciled lettering stood painted, “DON’T DROP – GLASS!”
“Hey, what’s that?” Recke tried to sniff with his nose. The grimaces provoked laughter.
The otherwise locked face of Gutmann showed a mischevious smile, “I’ll let you guess three times!”
“Nonsense,” rumbled Recke, “It’s not raspberry juice…”
“And no bottles to throw against the wall for the Kaiser’s birthday either,” laughed Reimer in between. “Give up your usual secretive actions, dear Gutmann! What’s been loaded in the jeep?”
“Three starlets,” hummed the Captain on the handlebars.
Recke and Reimer looked at him drowsily.
“If you have a long line, that is,” grinned Gutmann and tapped his forehead with his right pointer finger, “then it stays dark in the upper story.”
“I got it!” Reimer gave Recke a gentle nudge, “Cognac’s what our stargazer’s loaded.”
“Yes! – Cognac with three starlets. Real French!”
“It’s because it surprised me that the paymaster’s moved around so much. Usually the best things are hoarded so long until they finally fall into the enemy’s hand,” grunted Recke.
“Maybe there was a Führer-decree concerning Cognac,” quipped Reimer over the paymaster. “The mealhorses are only like that if they’ve a gun at their chest or are drunk.”
“The idea with the decree can’t be right. Decrees end for the most part in the latrines,” philosophized Recke.
“Remember that God’s ways are wonderful,” said Gutmann jokingly. “Above all it should be the last of this famous variety of Cognac.”
“You’re right, Gutmann,” agreed Recke. “From now on the Yanks have probably taken subscription to this mark under Eisenhower. Since the failure of the Ardennes offensive our source will probably be lost.”
The captain sitting upfront narrowed his eyes. Gruffly he said: “Let the damn front out of the game! There both sides they have no time to think of booze. Just us at the ass end of nowhere…”
“Well, it’s not so bad,” protested Reimer, “A beautiful city in a gorgeous fjord, what else do you want? Thousands of tourists dream in peaceful times of it, to be able to visit this beautiful Norway with its harsh landscape. And Trondheim…”
“Alright, Reimer,” soothed Gutmann, “You’re already sitting tight? – Then full throttle!”
While the boarded officers yet lolled, the driver pressed the gas pedal and drove rapidly. In a few minutes the car had left the district of Baklandet behind it, driving through Lademoen past the foothills of Ledehammeren and along the shores of Stjördalsfjord to the waterlogging airport.
A peaceful wind whistled against the travelers. They pressed their caps deep into their foreheads and stuck the fur collars of their long leather coats high again. While the driver looked out to the road, strutting towards his goal with great speed, he jammed the legs of the rear passengers against the lightly rumbling boxes to prevent the slippage of the precious cargo.
Reimer tried a few times to start a conversation with his neighbors. Because the wind tore the scraps of words from his mouth, he gave up the attempt. From time to time the two officers drove the backs of their hands over their faces as they drove the water from their eyes against the sharp breeze. Only Gutmann was slightly better off because he was directly behind the protective screen, protecting him from the wind.
After about a forty-five minute journey they arrived at the water-logging. “Today we come as Santa Claus,” Reimer joked as the car came to a halt at the airport.
“What do you mean?” said Gutmann, “I deliver my Cognac alone. See to it that you get out here!” He twisted his face into a broad smile.
“Stargazer, stargazer!” called Reimer wistfully warning and waving the significant gesture of an inxed finger.
He tapped his cap’s visor lightly with his right hand and jumped from the jeep. Recke came a little portly after.
“’Till later,” grunted Gutmann, “Bye!” – He drove on and disappeared into a Barrack alley with the car.
Reimer’s legs had become somewhat clammy from the crowded seats. “Now some boring days lie before us. Except for one good Cognac and persistent bad news on the radio, we’ve nothing here.” His countenance expressed discontent.
A young officer came straight across the airfield to the newcomers. He had a short warm flying jacket on and upon the right half of his head sat daringly the blue-grey ship with a silver poplar.
“Any news of importance?” he called out to Recke.
“Naturally,” the lieutenant shouted back, “The adjutant’s given that the two Rs may arrive with him at once after returning from Trondheim!”
The two Rs were Recke and Reimer who got this jocular name from the whole airfield because of their inseparability and from the same initial letters of their names.
“Hm, of course it won’t be quite so,” whined Reimer in between, “Naturally just the boredom.”
Lieutenant Weiss had come very close to the two Captains. “I believe with the boredom time will pass quickly within the next few days. Tonight a strange bird came to our airport. There – he’s in the back!” His right hand pointed to the background of the field. The captains followed the direction-giving hand with their eyes.
“The two machines standing in the very back?”
“A machine,” the Lieutenant emphasized, “It’s a new design. A DO-635 with two hulls. The twin-structure is generally flown as a two-seater. The radioman on the right, the pilot on the left.”
“That’s mighty interesting,” said Recke, “We’ll want to inspect it once out of the vicinity!”
“If I may remember – the Adjutant’s demanded it urgently already!” threw in the lieutenant reluctantly.
“Well then, we’ll go to the Adjutant first,” decided Reimer summarily. Somewhat curious, they walked with long strides towards the staff building. The lieutenant trotted along behind them.
Still looking around on the road, Recke asked, “Are some of the planes not prepped? – The place looks a little thin.”
“Three Me-109’s have taken to the air with orders,” answered Lieutenant Weiss, “Just a plane ready in the weather squadron. The new Do-635’s also been assigned in the way of the weather squadron.”
Immediately before the staff building they discovered a lanky young lieutenant that hadn’t known them. He gave a greeting but looked very depressed.
“Who’s that?” Recke turned back to Weiss.
“Arrived tonight with the funny Do and transferred to us. He’s got worms in his heart, so he runs around like a scalped paleface.
“He probably pulled some shit,” said Recke lightly.
“The swallows say differently,” said the Lieutenant lightly back, “I already had a short talk with him this morning. He told me he was previously stationed in Denmark, where they were shipping boxes everywhere but had strict bans on aerial engagement.”
“A strange disk that was placed and played there,” muttered Reimer.
The Lieutenant whispered, “He told me he took off on a reconnaissance flight over the lake and was attacked by two British Spitfires. One of them he shot down – his first hit – the second he chased wounded. As he proudly said, his victory in the shaky flight, rolled out and announced to his commander when he made landing, let him wait for a full hour in the hallway before meeting him. Instead of an award and a promotion he was given a kick that washed him up. The commander went so far as to threaten the poor guy with a court martial!”
“Unbelievable!” Reimer was indignant.
“It seems to be fact,” Weiss confirmed his story, “There was a racket where Lieutenant Mohr drew the short straw, as it couldn’t be any other way with the difference in ranks. The final result was a transfer to us. Now the poor guy’s filled with anger and can’t understand the world anymore.”
“Me neither,” interjected Reimer again, “This whole thing’s already royally screwed!”
“Tut-tut-tut,” clicked Recke, “Speech is silver, silence is golden! We can’t sweep a stable alone.”
“Unfortunately,” whispered Weiss.
“Well, one is flown away from the eyrie and, if necessary, shot.” Recke wanted to end the conversation with this sentence. “We thank you, dear Weiss, you’re our indispensable living newspaper. Now we’ll see what the Adju wants. Bye, for now!”
Weiss also saluted and then turned around.
A few minutes later Recker and Reimer stood before the Adjutant.
“It’s good that you came,” greeted Hauptmann con Wendt with a slightly nasal voice, “I’ve just been appointed as commander. Will you do the same, because the Colonel’s asked it several times of you!”
“Hopefully nothing bad?” asked Reimer entering.
“Nah, meine Herren – But psst! – Secret commander things!”
“Hopefully something sensible,” groused Recke. Von Wendt curled his brows, his face becoming an arrogant, repellent display. “Everything is reasonable with us, captain!”
Recke acted as if he hadn’t heard, “Should we wait here in Waiting Room?”
“I think that would be best,” laced the Adjutant. He went away with a map under his arm. Recke sat on the simple table of the Adjutant without much circumstance while Reimer stayed before the large Norwegian land map which hung on the wall next to the window. Thumb-tacks and miniature flags were stuck to the chart.
“It looks cute,” muttered Reimer, cocking his head.
“That’s everything so far,” added Recke dryly, “One tends to chalk up or mark lost items simply because a point’s a point and has to be drawn after the LDV.”
“That’s part of what’s commonly called an organization.”
“That too,” said Recke with slight irritation and picked up a drawing from the table which lay between stacks of business papers, “This war-division that our O.I. accompanied so dedicatedly also belongs to organization. It’s just another war of paperwork then, which eventually just ends up in the trash bin. It makes me sick…”
Reimer relented, “It’s not to me, Recke! Everything here has a necessity that we can’t just abandon. It’s no different here than anywhere in life, it’s just that too much is unhealthy. Let the O.I. quietly scribble his statements. It’s better he’s writing an overview on firepower instead of dozing off or painting naked women on the document files.”
“You have an excuse for everything,” laughed Recke spiritedly. He then took the outline he’d picked up and looked at it in more detail. “The group’s target plan exists on paper, but our work doesn’t even put out the amount of a squadron.”
“Who knows what tomorrow brings?” lectured Reimer precociously. Recke was stripped of yet another objection. The door opened and Von Wendt appeared. “Both the Rs to the Commander,” he said raspily. He left the let the two summoned go on their own and stayed behind.
“Break a leg,” he called out. While Reimer continued on indifferently, Recke turned around in surprise. “Why, Wendelin?” He knew that Von Wendt couldn’t stand that nickname, and would bit a little from hearing it. So he added weakly, “Hummel-Hummel!” since the Adjutant was a native of Hamburg. At the Commander’s door the two captains adjusted their belts and patted the pockets of their leather jackets flat.
As they entered, the Commander stood over his table looking at a pile of Wehrmacht maps. A map lying on top, the paper surface illuminated with fields of white – clearly an ice or snow landscape, seemed to capture his interest.
“Captain Recke and Reimer returning from Trondheim, Colonel,” both officers hoisted their arms after Recke’s report. Colonel Troll, Commander of the Flight Base, moved his head only slightly. “Just a moment, meine Herren! Just a brief moment…”
He sought further on the map, encouraged, until he’d clearly found a point. Then he sat up and eyed the officers intently. “I have an assignment, gentlemen!” He waved his hand and lowered his voice a little, “Come, look here!”
While the addressed answered his call, the colonel said, “Alright, my gentlemen, I’ve received a top secret document from Berlin. I’ve chosen you to carry out the related order. I need two officers that I can rely on for it. Your orders are secret and you’re henceforth acting under secrecy!”
Both captains took briefly to attention. “You can count on us, Herr Oberst!” said Recke tightly.
“I know, I know – just come here!”
The Commander rummaged among the papers next to the pile of maps and plunged again into a document which jumped into vision with the red overprint “TOP SECRET” across its cover.
“You’ll be starting with a new machine and perform long-haul test flights with a new type of navigation system.
The machine that you’ll be taking has a range of seven-hundred-five thousand kilometers, but no weapons. Since this is a new design, it cannot fall into enemy hands under any circumstances. You understand me, gentlemen. I can’t give you hunting license.”
The captains considered the searching eyes of the commander standing quietly. None of their gazes faltered.
“Good, then! I’ve given the order that no one from the local staff is allowed to deal with the machine any closer. That’s naturally untrue for you! Afterwards contact Major Küpper, who’s flown the machine alone with a radio operator, and get detailed instruction. Küpper’s flying back again early tomorrow morning with a crow, while an accompanying lieutenant is staying with us. Ready yourselves further for a long flight and think about how you’ll be gone from here for some time. Temporary stationing at a certain base point may be necessary. So – and tomorrow morning at half past seven you’ll meet with me, where you’ll receive your orders. I’ll prepare your maps personally too. Everything else that’s important – that’s also for tomorrow morning!”
“Jawohl, Herr Oberst!” The two captains hooked their arms together and saluted. Then they began to leave the room.
“Stop – there’s something else!” The commander snapped the fingers of his right hand. “Tell Küpper he can teach you detailed enough about the Shadow-Navigation Device. Tell him to do it when no one is listening. Utmost secrecy is called for.” His voice became very powerful:
“I’m counting on you, meine Herren! And now, please send Von Wendt to me, I’ll draw the order up with him.
He came out from behind the table and walked up to his officers who already stood before the door of his room. He hefted his right hand, “Good bye!”
As Reimer stood with Recke before the headquarters building, he pushed his cap against his forehead and scratched above his neck in an embarrassing gesture.
“So this time I’d had nothing against boredom. Whoops! It’s probably like the late Wilhelm Busch said: First it comes differently, then what secondly as one thinks…”
“I don’t make anything of it,” explained Recke.
“Alright, so we explore the North Pole to the umpteenth time again. Judging from the white spots on the map…”
“Aha – it’s good that you reminded me of it. I might’ve forgotten it. Now I’m really curious again, I’d do anything to be in Wendt’s place. If this Major – well, what’s his name again now?”
“Küpper – he probably doesn’t know too much. He probably brought the secret orders – closed of course – but otherwise?”
“Then let’s go ask him!” urged Reimer.
“Let’s go ask him,” mimicked Recke, “Where is he then?”
“Oh yes, hmm…”
A window of the headquarters building stood opened slightly. Recke took a few steps towards it and shouted in, “Hello! Lieutenant: Berg! Do you know where the flying Major Küpper is?”
While the voice called out some barely understandable words, from the entrance of the building a strong voice intervened, “Here’s the bird that just flew in, gentlemen!”
The two captains turned and snapped to attention.
The two captains turned and snapped to attention.
“No circumstance, if I may. You called?”
“On orders of the Colonel to you, Herr Major! Captain Reimer and Captain Recke…”
“Ah! May I trouble you?”
“Zu Befehl, Herr Major!”
The Major, also still a young Flight Officer with a fighter-pilot badge, an Iron Cross First Class and the German Cross in gold on his flight suit, stepped out of the complex and walked to the buildings standing outside, “We want to be disturbed.”
Recke and Reimer exchanged glances, taking to The Major. In the next building, which they entered, were the living quarters of the squadron officers. The Major had refused to move into a better quarter in Trondheim and requested field-standard accommodations at the airfield. He was awarded the room of a lieutenant assigned on short leave.
In the quick and concise manner of old Frontofficers, the Major single-handedly took two chairs from the neighboring rooms and grouped them around the small table by the window.
With the major’s hand motion, the two captains took their places with a tight nod. Without formality he began to speak, “I take it, my gentlemen, that the commander has already explained a special mission to perform under the strict compliance of all security rules. They have their trust and,” the major smiled away, “also that of the General Staff Officer and of the NSFO. You understand, yes, even in the Lufwaffe High Command…” The speaker bit his lips, as if he had already said too much.
Recke looked very serious, “We’ll fulfill every order to our best ability and with dedication to the fullest, Herr Major! – Otherwise the commander issued orders without even mentioning the objective. We’re to receive the order tomorrow morning…”
“Stop, captain! You must be mistaken; you’re being handed the order only after the departure’s been sealed. Do you mean rather the general instructions?”
“The commander gave explicit order! I was surprised because I had the impression we’d have to take on a machine without it having been flown in…”
“Of course you’ll have to fly in it. You have two days’ time, so far as flying weather holds. I will…”
The major was interrupted by a heavy knocking at the door.
In the doorway stood an orderly. “The Herr Major to the Commander immediately!”
“Ah – I’m coming! Keep your seats, gentlemen, I’ll be back…” He walked quickly over the orderly out of the room, closing the door behind him. The rumble of boot soles on the floor boards faded.
“Funny stuff,” grumbled Recke, “They’re swirling about in the base as they’re bringing a revolutionary wonder weapon into use. From here…”
“Better something than nothing,” replied Reimer and crossed his legs, “My school friend wrote to me that the V2 has already lost its first surprise-effect and everyone’s in the homeland’s waiting impatiently for new and more effective weapons. The constant references in broadcasting through the Reichspropaganda sheikh expect a tube with which one could just cough away the entire Eastern Front. He also writes that the skepticism was well advanced and the popular jokes already speak of a V6 being a man throwing a rock and then saying ‘boom’ just after.”
“What boneheads! They’re probably the ones that sent Panzers on the Eastern front hay instead of fuel. Or that supplied the Russkies with the same Panzers as the Axis, where they – without punchline or counter – can use the same things. What do they have, pop jokes…”
“Don’t get mad. Remember the immortal words of the great Viennese Richard Genèe off the bat, ‘Happy is he who forgets what is too late to change…’”
“You really shouldn’t let yourself go, but your thoughts return to our 3-SK!”
“What kind of design is that?” Reimer laughed loudly, “Three Star Cognac!”
“Don’t get too excited!. It’s first long incubated by our feedhorse long before a single serving’s drop comes.”
“There’s a remedy against that,” chuckled Reimer, “We invite the guy to a small leisure flight and slip and spin with him around in the air until he throws up his covetous black soul from his body. In this condition, afterwards such involuntary acrobatics are always very personable!”
“Then you’ll never get into a single box. He looks at the tail from the highest of the airplane.”
After a while the major came back, “Meine Herren, given circumstances’ sake, you’re getting another comrade as a third companion as originally planned.”
“Well well,” made Reimer, “I thought the new machine is a two-seater?”
“Who said that?” The voice of the major sounded metallically sharp.
Reimer put his ear sharply back and restrained himself. If he mentioned Lieutenant Weiss, it could turn out uncomfortable for them. Even though he’d revealed little more than any sentry knew.
“Herr Major, my comment was referring to a guess when I saw it in the background of the landing field!”
“Is it so?” The Major looked at the captain from Linz suspiciously, “Therefore – as the third man you’re getting Captain Gutmann with you.”
“Of all people, Gutmann?” Both officers looked to each other.
The major tapered, “To you have something against your comrades?”
Recke swallowed, “Not at all. A good comrade, very reliable.”
“But?” continued the Major for him.
“No buts, actually. He’s somewhat eccentric. However, always ahead!”
“So nothing to complain about?”
“Nothing, Herr Major!”
“Hmm.” There was a small pause.
Suddenly Recke asked, “Our commander told us earlier he only needed two officers. Not everything is clear to me. If, sir…?”
“A mistake of the Colonel’s! If you insist on an exact answer to your question, then it can be unpleasant for one of your comrades. Because it’s then, in case of not knowing better, for sure, that someone knows the new design and talked despite orders. But they’ll probably put little emphasis on the prosecution for finding the Person-X. Or?”
Recke and Reimer sat silent.
“Treachery and stupidity are completely separate concepts,” said the Major in a quiet tone, speaking as if to himself, “One cannot always be stubborn, as required from the provision of an old braid. We pilots also have to uphold a camaraderie.”
“You speak from the heart, sir,” Recke looked at Küpper warmly. The Major grunted. But before any new things could be said, there was a knock.
The door opened and Captain Gutmann stepped in. He saluted and made himself at home.
“Captain, feel free to grab a chair from next door!” Major Küpper smiled pleasantly. Gutmann turned immediately and came back with a shaky-looking seat. With a nod he sat beside Recke and waited for him to speak.
“I’ll try to be brief and cut to the chase,” began Major Küpper impersonal and objectively, “Above all, I want to set it straight that I described the newly introduced machine as a DO 635 with intent as if incidentally, a type more or less unknown, but not representing the latest…” He stopped briefly and smiled faun-like at the two captains, “So incidentally, you can also easily see how remarks, made seemingly inadvertently, have served their purpose. Don’t you think so, gentlemen?”
Recke nodded stiffly like a doll, while Reimer coughed and made a face. The lewd smile disappeared from Küpper’s look and his voice became hard. In the jargon of the front’s soldiers he only said, “It’s namely the world to give a damn what model is really flown here.”
“…the world gives a damn,” mimicked Recke, an old habit, as if to confirm.
The Major studiously ignored the repetition, “Since you’re all subject to special secrecy now, meine Herren, I’ll explain that the machine that’s been mentioned to you is a type of Junkers improved and redesigned, which was expanded as a three-seater and has yet a greater range; namely eight-thousand kilometers.”
“Beautiful,” murmured Reimer.
“In the three-man crew, the operator’s seat is in the left fuselage, which is behind the pilot’s, while the right is normally designed for an air mechanic with a second controller. In this particular case we have to be in agreement over these seat, that is role, placements!” Küpper looked at the three captains questioningly in turn.
“If I may make a suggestion?” threw in Gutmann, leaning forward slightly.
“So I may ask,” Küpper encouraged him politely.
“Well – I mean – since my comrades Recke and Reimer apply as lovebirds here…”
“You want the place for the sole occupant?”
“Jawohl, Herr Major!”
“Very nice. Very comradely. That pleases me,” said Major Küpper appreciatively, “The personal would therefore be settled. I will therefore immediately begin to make you familiar with the details of the design in theory. Tomorrow morning we’ll go to the machine to connect the practical lessons and start flying. So much as it is, the whole thing isn’t too remarkable. But now the main thing, gentlemen!”
The Major made a dramatic pause and saw three motionless faces which betrayed stress. “The purpose of your flight with the Do-Ju Design is the testing of a new navigation device mainly out of the additional implementation of a military assignment. This device – we can aptly call it the Heaven Compass – is a new invention from our scientists back home and has to be tested for its usefulness in polar regions. I take the liberty to confide in you that these zones will gain increased strategic importance during the current overall military situation in the near future. If the Heaven Compass lives up to its expectations, then our Luftwaffe will be ahead of the enemy’s noses – one can say even quietly, as long as an elephant’s – once again.” Küpper belittled his own comparison, “Now I’ll try to help you understand the principle of this navigational aid with just a few words. If something appears unclear during the presentation, interrupt me quietly with questions, gentlemen. Clear?”
“Gladly – jawohl, Herr Major!” were the words that came back.
“I continue thus: the benefit of the new device lays in that it with its help you can find the position of the sun at any time of the day. However the condition is that there has to be some of the blue sky showing. It also functions at twilight, when the sun is just below the horizon. With the relevant provision of the sun and other instruments you can always calculate the position of the plane easily. As you know, the magnetic compass is an irritable in the polar regions. At certain times we thus have an error-free position detector, with this device in the polar region, which will increase flight safety substantially. The design-principle itself is about the same, that during the day the sunlight striking on the ground is partially polarized. That means that the electromagnetic oscillations in the plane will be strongest. Since both the sun and the observer lay on this plain, it’s possible to determine the position of the sun through an analyzer. Measurements conducted on the ground give up a degree of accuracy. From the airplane a minimally increasing inaccuracy is given, which is of little importance. This is understandably due to the uneven movements of the plane. And again going back to the polar regions; the new Heaven Compass is of particular benefit for these areas because the twilight there lasts long – and therefore at certain times – as opposed to the irritable compass which inevitably prepares anger and worry. It’s strange that the Heaven Compass is more precise near the poles than anywhere else. This is due casually to the measurements together with the actual measurement at hand. So much for short theoretical introduction, gentlemen! Tomorrow we’ll talk about the plane even closer, the practical tests will then be entrusted to you. Be responsible and appreciate this trust!”
“Jawohl, Herr Major!” said all the captains at the same time.
“Hm… and due to additional responsibilities, hm… you’ll be given more details by the Commander before the scheduled takeoff. I have only the technical part of the mission to tell you. Prepare and we’ll meet tomorrow morning, well – say, at seven-thirty, by the machine itself. For today we’ll want to stop here. I thank you, gentlemen!”
The three captains rose. Küpper raised his hand, as if to say goodbye with this salute.
“How do you greet someone in Norway?” he asked.
Reimer grinned, “By this time you can say God Aften already, Herr Major!”
“God Aften? That’s just good evening, isn’t it?”
“Jawohl, it is!”
As Reimer, Recke and Gutmann stood alone outside again, they looked at each other dumbfounded. Recke was the first to speak, “Now I’ll just have a go at it sometimes and say I wasn’t a prophet. For little over an hour after being dismissed from the commander I said that we’d follow in the footsteps of Wegener, Nobile and Admunsen. From the white maps of the north pole and so on. Sky, ass and twine! Now we’ll actually have to slip over the humps through the northern lights!”
“Be happy that we’re getting away somewhat from this bleak operation,” Reimer threw in, “I’ve imagined such a flight before as being eerily beautiful.”
“..eerily, eerily,” Recke mimicked again.
Reimer looked around to see if anyone from the ground crew was nearby, then he tugged his ear like a cocky schoolboy and stuck out his tongue.
“Blah!” he said, “You cynical spirit, I’ll go down deep and photograph the ice-bears. I’ll only let you see the pictures once!”
“I’m not a fan of bad pictures anyway, hahah!”
“We’ll see who has the last laugh! Moreover – shouldn’t we ask our dear Gutmann how he managed to be the third one in our crew?”
“Yeah,” called Recke, “Come on Gutmann, out with it! How did you spin this thing?”
Gutmann made a mischievous face that matched any other little seriousness of his, “A little Christmas bell lightly rang and something happened to me by a nice commission, then I just went to Wendt and had him put a good word or recommendation in with the Commander. Over all Von Wendt found a flask of Three-Star Cognac in his room, for which he has a particular weakness.”
The two others laughed. Recke said, “Yeah and where in devil’s name did you come by the brandy?”
“Didn’t we load some up in Trondheim?” asked Gutmann with an innocent expression.
“How’d you divert it?” Reimer was the questioner.
“Very simple. I had some bottles reported as ‘broken’”.
“Haha, that’s great. And where are the other flasks?”
“Reserved for the takeoff to the ice-bears!”
“Fantastic!” laughed Recke in between, “And the feed-horse believed it?”
“Not really, but he had to. I laughed at him when he spoke of the need to make a report. He thought he’d have to blame himself.”
“Of course! That’s his guilty conscious. It probably won’t be the first time he’ll report them ‘broken’. If others do the same, it’s not the same to him. Old recipe. Also, if he becomes an example, he’s afraid that someone will step on his tail.”
Recke squeaked happily, “For inner warmth he’d worry enough!”
The darkness slowly interrupted while the three officers talked around the airfield. Gutmann, otherways always very cautious, was tidy this time and in good spirits. Recke and Reimer enjoyed themselves, their comrade now receptive and more human to get to know.
“Where are you from?” asked Reimer and looked at Gutmann, “One knows so little of you. Your accent’s probably Hessian?”
“I’m Hessian myself,” protested Recke, “Gutmann talks more of a Frankfurt tone.”
“Both of you are half-right,” said Gutmann, “I come from Runkel.”
“Runkel? Where’s that?” Reimer shook his head, “I’ve never heard of it.”
“It’s a tiny-little town in Nassau. On the Lahn, east of Limburg.”
“So it is Hessia,” Reimer defended his first conjecture.
“You could say that. Recke has disgraced himself!”
“Oh, whatever,” Recke looked annoyed and embarrassed he pushed a rock out of the way with a boot toe, “Of course I know Runkel. I’ve been there, but I can’t remember all the vernacular subtleties.”
Quietly, more as if to himself, said Gutmann, “It’s beautiful back home. And also – my birthplace has a special meaning to me. But that’s something you won’t understand. Maybe later.”
“You’re stuffed full of secrets, Gutmann! No one ever knows anything right about you. You’ve either caught hold of something or it’s caught you.” Recke flicked his finger to his temple.
Gutmann showed a lost smile. “Eveyone lives their life the way they have to,” he said. And looking at his watch, he finished, “I think it’s already time for dinner!”
A little while later the three captains sat in a circle with their other comrades, and it was pretty quiet for the time being. The radio had recently repeated just briefly the latest Wehrmacht reports, which were little comforting. Especially Lieutenant Mohr, freshly displaced after Vernäs, when arriving with Küpper bore a dejected, almost desperate expression. He still felt as if he were a stranger here and had only found conversation with Lieutenant Weiss. Weiss sat next to him, but hung himself within his own gloomy thoughts.
Immediately after mealtime the commander stood up. “Stay seated, gentlemen! There’s a more urgent matter I need to attend to. Von Wendt, can you come with me for a moment?”
The Adjutant immediately stood up and answered. Colonel Troll spoke a few quiet words to him. Von Wendt’s eyes grew large and replied promptly, “Let’s go, commander, let’s go.” With long strides he ran ahead of the commanding officer.
No sooner were the two officers out of the room that a broad-shouldered lieutenant, who’d sat next to the Adjutant, make a calm and hushing gesture, “Kids, listen up! The Colonel whispered something to the Adjutant about a bottle of wine. You can call me a monkey-ass if he’s not by the feed-horse getting a few free drops at the commander’s request!”
“Bravo, bravo! A good old idea! Excellent!”
Immediately the mood was relaxed. It didn’t even last until the arrival of the feed-horse personally with his aid and put down two towed-load boxes of wine bottles. Afterward came Von Wendt and laughed gleefully, “Greetings from the commander, comrade! He says you should fill up and not sit there like scaredy-cats. It’s already like a corpse-club here. Late and leave me a bottle!”
“Everything’s in order, Adju! Hummel, Hummel!”
The delivered bottles began straightly to start up a more upscale atmosphere. Even Major Küpper was in no way coy, rather he held fearlessly with his drink. With a pretty tenor voice he began singing the pilot’s song, “Bomben auf England”, along with his other things common to soldiers and mercenaries. Uncorking the last bottle, is was he who asked the question around, “Are there any alcohol stations here in Vernäs where you can get a refill?”
Lieutenant Zastrow, an impudent Berliner, crowed out, “Ah, ‘course Major! Past the entrance there’s a lil’ Budicke where…”
“That’s enough,” cried Küpper, “You wanna go, Lieutenant? I’ll donate fifty marks.”
The fund started by the Major soon transformed into a remarkable collection. Zastrow took the sum and asked Weiss to come along. They quickly disappeared. While lively conversation went on, Recke watched Mohr across the table. The newcomer sat lost in thought in his chair and gave little attention to his surroundings.
His eyes were somewhat watery.
“Hey, Lieutenant, you’re not going to get flabby are you? Some sit here. Captain Reimer and I will keep you entertained until Weiss comes back. Just come over!”
Mohr came to the invitation without hesitation. He tipped his glass and pressed it close to him while he switched seats, “Much obliged,” he said politely.
Recke gave him immediately then, “To your health, Lieutenant! May you soon get accustomed to us. We’ve splendid comrades here.”
“Yes,” said the Lieutenant mechanically. Again he drank hastily. A hectic flush lay on his handsome boyish face.
The time passed and suddenly the two lieutenants were back again, “We’ve brought rum!” they called out, “That’s a good grog!”
“The cook’s needed!” yelled one, “Galley, galley!”
Sometime later Von Wendt came back and found himself in noisy society, grog-haze in the room and cigarette smoke. Mohr was about to go back to his seat and already staggered with shock at Weiss and Zastrow who called to him.
“They’re already soiled silly,” the Adjutant told him. “Don’t take to much.”
“Hic-,” chuckled the lieutenant, “Hic- it’s all the same! Dri-drink, so long a-as it’s there. Then your b-buzzed anyway. Hic-“
“Mohr, you’re a dashing guy. Don’t give in now!”
“Gi- hic- give in, that’s what I’m here for – commanded here. Hic, hic – sh-sh-shot Spitfires – hic- almost court-martialed. Damn mess, captain! F-funny war. Punishment for cutting, hahah! Everything treachery and shit…”
Von Wendt patted him reassuringly on the shoulder. “Don’t take it so badly, Mohr! None of that will happen here. Cheer up!”
Mohr shook his head stubbornly, “Hic- everything’s shi- shi-…”
“Appearanrly, as you say, right?” Recke, who came over, laughed uproariously.
Lieutenant Mohr let his empty glass fall to the floor where it remained unbroken below the table. “No-not even broken,” he whispered sadly. Ceasing to look at the row of chairs, he staggered out of the room.
“It’s got ‘im,” laughed Weiss over a distance to Reimer.
Reimer stayed serious, “The alcohol isn’t it, it’s the worm in his heart.”
“Yes, really,” the Lieutenant nodded, “Just like was said at the airfield today.”
Mohr’s departure had not gone unnoticed. The officers had mostly put up their seats already and chatted in groups before going away. They almost all had small eyes.
Küpper was the one who gave the final sign for the general dispersal, “Let’s make sure we get to the door!”
In an instant, as the little flock pushed out of rht room, the bright shock of a shot whipped through the night. Immediately the chatter stopped.
“Get out!” roared Küpper, “Go see what’s going on…”
Completely sobered the officers rushed into the open. At first the light-accustomed eyes only saw a deep blackness before them. Only gradually did they get used to the darkness. The adjacent building also opened a door up and a wider beam of light lit up the area. As a silhouette the massive figure of the commander stood in the doorway, “What kind of mess is this?”
From the darkness of the night appeared the figure of a sentry. The man went up to the commander and said, “Corporal Kohl on patrol duty, sir! The shot came from the Officer Quarters!”
“All right, Kohl. Move on! Go see what it is,”
Followed by his officers, the commander went into the quarters. As they entered the building, all was quiet. The corridor was empty.
“Except for Mohr, none of us could be here,” Weiss said shyly, “Aren’t we always usually here together?”
“Where’s Mohr?” asked Colonel Troll.
Weiss pointed to the second door, “Here, commander!” The colonel took a few steps forward and opened the door, “Ach– ”
From behind him the officers pushed and looked into the room. The ceiling light was turned on and at first it showed only sparse furnishings. Gutmann was the first to point to the figure lying on the floor. “Mohr…”
The young lieutenant was laying prostrate on the ground and in the middle of his open hand lay his hand-gun. His face was as pure white as a whitewashed wall and a small, dark stain spread slowly, coming from his temple out onto the wooden floor. The corners of the dead mouth were bitterly warped.
The commander was the first to break the icy silence, “Where is the Chief Medic?”
“Here, Commander!” The man being spoken of pressed forward. Colonel Troll stepped aside and let him pass. With a rigid face he watched the doctor’s doing. The other officers also watched, shocked.
“There’s nothing we can do, Herr Oberst. We humans have limits…”
“I know.” He stepped quickly to the dead one and picked up the gun. For a moment he weighed it thoughtfully in his hand before he quickly pocketed it. Then he turned to his men. “Show your comrades a last labor of love by laying him on a bed!”
Weiss and Zastrow came immediately after the commander’s request.
“Everyone come in, gentlemen. Go in the back some if I may ask. We all have space.” The colonel looked at the officers in turn, “Meine Herren, I know why Lieutenant Mohr was transferred to us. It will probably be enough to say that the man is a sacrifice to his loyalty to duty and his courage.”
With a raised voice he continued, “Mohr fought for a lost cause, as we do here. He deserves the highest esteem and has reaped vulgar meanness. He broke because of that. We want to be good comrades and think of his relatives. Lieutenant Mohr was accidentally killed in service, gentlemen! …Understand!”
The officers straightened up and nodded silently. Most of their throats were dry.
The Colonel nodded, “I thank you, meine Herren!” Then in a familiar tone, “I’ll make the report myself and enter the Lieutenant for an Iron Cross later. Chief Medic, take care of the rest.”
The commander threw another look with a petrified expression to the pale boy’s face and left the tragic scene with rapid steps. The squad officers followed distraught and retired to their quarters.
Gutmann picked up Reimer and Recke the next morning. The three of them trudged across the airfield. A hazy morning mist lay over the fjord-land and the damply cold air made the officers shiver slightly. They’d already received word from the Adjutant that Major Küpper would give the time when they would receive the orders from the commander. The sad thing with the young Lieutenant Mohr occupied their minds and made them silent and slightly embittered.
At the other end of the field the contours of the strange twin-aparatus balanced out from the gradually forgiving mist. Just before the aircraft stood a sentry and reported to Recke, who was step ahead, “Herr Hauptmann, orders from the Commander to allow access only when accompanied by Major Küpper.”
“I know,” said Recke gently, “the Major summoned us here.”
The man squirmed a bit, “I have express orders, Herr Hauptmann!”
“Well, we’ll just wait a bit then,” Reimer said good-naturely, “Küpper’s coming soon.”
The guard lifted the strap of his Karabiner and resumed his post again where the three officers stood. Ten minutes later came Küpper. It was half past seven exactly.
“Morning, gents,” he greeted causally as he came, while the captains went to attention. He gave them a quick hand salute and hurried to the craft. “We’ll climb into the baby together and look at the device. Somewhat later we’ll have godly flying-weather – if your weather-squadron hasn’t lied – then we can all begin with the flying portion. Let’s go zooming then in a jiffy!”
It was at ten-o-clock that Küpper could command, “Let’s fill up the tanks, my gentlemen!”
Gutmann shouted across the square. Men from the ground crew gave gestures of acknowledgement and hastened to carry through.
“The plane has excellent two-by-two DB 603 A motors,” explained the Major as he went on, “Be careful when landing, gentlemen, since the main landing gear was reduced to a two-wheel unit. That way the whole middle space is free for fuel storage. Top speed is 725 kilometers an hour. As you can see further on, the crew spaces are built as pressure chambers. Armaments – none! But just in case, if you need to make an emergency landing, you can carry an M-Pi.”
Küpper went into the individual technical intricacies and then determined, “As requested, Captain Gutmann will sit in the right single seat at the second control while you gentlemen,” he nodded to Reimer and Recke, “Will be together on the left. See to it that you soon agree on who’s going to be pilot and radioman. Therefore– ” The Major broke off as the men arrive to fill up the tanks, “ Good, good. Hey, you earthworms, do something pronto!”
The four officers somewhat distanced themselves from the plane. Küpper and Recke lit up a cigarette.
A sergeant came over to group after a moment, “All done!” he reported.
“Thanks!” Then the Major turned to the captains, “Fly it the same as you would any old junker. Break a leg!” He looked at his watch as if incidental, “Watch out for enemy aircraft. You have a mission and you can’t defend yourselves!”
As the three officers crept into their cabins ready to fly, it looked like three furry animals climbing around. They closed the cabin’s hatch, checked the seat speakers and even fumbled with their flight stuits.
The motors jumped with thunder. Reimer had taken the place of pilot and turned back to Recke. He simply nodded. As the man from Linz looked back into the field, Küpper gave the command himself.
A fine vibration ran through the aircraft. Like a living thing, thought Reimer and let the plane roll forward. Effortlessly she lifted herself up into the air and described a slight curve in the ascent which was to lead them out over the surface of the fjord’s water. The leaden waters of the sea-arm flashed peacefully like a middle-European Alpine lake. Only the mountains showed that Nordic austerity and force, lacking insufficient in green slopes.
Working at the control stick, Reimer said through the microphone, “The plane is alright. It’s fine flying.”
“I think so too,” came back from Recke. Gutmann also came out from the adjacent compartment, “Works like a charm.”
Reimer flew over the Aasenfjord, then across the frowning summit of frost on the protruding peninsula and headed towards Namsos. Over the Lyngenfjord he made a loop, turned onto the Flattangergruppe and made a stretch over the open sea. He tested out the elevator and the rudder, let the plane go down a bit, went into glidding with throddled engines, slipped sideways and carefully checked the valves.
Recke dabbled with the position measurement, Gutmann calculating as well and giving the values he obtained through the microphone. Recke added these to the values from the Heaven Compass and received perfect results.
About an hour later they flew back to Vernäs again and landed smoothly.
“Captain Gutmann, Reimer and Recke standing by for further orders, sir!” reported Recke as the senior officer.
“Good, meine Herren! Major Küpper told me that you’ve already grown accustomed to the new plane. So you’re flying in God’s name! Before I hand out the next order now, I have some useful and necessary explanations for you.”
The commander looked again at the three officers before him before he went on, “The state of the war is well known to us. Back home we’ll already be defending our own soil on both fronts. In the Promi – Reichspropagandaministerium – the statements have already been made that Wehrmacht are being withdrawn into the emerging Alpine fortress to end the war from there victoriously using new weapons and conditions.”
An ironic, bitter smile played furtively on the mouth of the Colonel, “In the race against time, as well as for strategic reasons, the Wehrmacht High Command has decided to create a secret base in Greenland, on one hand as a starting point for applying a pincer movement to recover lost home soil, and also to have a superb and dangerous base of operations so close to America.
“To avoid endangering the structure and the equipment of this base, the greatest caution and secrecy is to be maintained. The true position of this place is specified in the order you’re to open only after taking off from our northern air-base in Porsangerfjord. We’ll call it X-Point for the time being. As Major Küpper said, X-Point even has a small airfield which is already working to a great extent. You, gentlemen, are to remain there indefinitely and you will disclose the information gathered from your flight experience with the new navigation system and utilize it. To what extent the whole group here is concerned, I don’t know. Von Wendt has adequately prepared maps, and I’ve used them myself for all you care, so you don’t need to worry about your well-being. Remember that with the fulfillment of your mission you’ve made an important contribution to the OKL or rather the OKW. Thinking of everything, I’ve decided on the recommendation of Major Küpper that you three be equipped with M-Pi’s. The weapons I already requested from the garrison in Trondheim and picked up. You’ll find them already in the airplane. I’m fully aware of the gravity of your mission and seeing that you could be exposed to risks of an exceptional nature, I cannot neglect anything. Does anyone have a last wish?”
The three men in the thick flight suits looked at each other.
“No thank you, Herr Oberst!” replied Recke for them.
“Good. By the way, the wireless radio is only to be used in extreme emergencies. Consider also the statements from the OKL. So, in a few words that’s everything. I would’ve liked to be one of you, actually. So must I confine myself, I give you my best wishes!” The commander came out from behind his desk and shook the men’s hands tightly, “Take care!”
“We’ll do our duty!” assured Recke simply.
“I know that. Otherwise I wouldn’t have chosen and proposed this company for Operation Ultima Thule. Now go to your plane!”
In the commander’s antechamber the captains met with Major Küpper, who was talking quietly with the Adjutant.
“Hah, here come our polar bears,” joked the Major, “I’m going!”
Von Wendt regretted not being able to join. He had to remain at the disposal of the commander, “Nevertheless, see you soon!”
“You get the picture?” asked Küpper on the way to the aircraft.
“Without limits, Major!”
“Which one of you has the order?”
“I,” answered Recke, “The Commander handed it to me when we left.”
“I must return to the writing desk in Berlin. For OKL Planning Staff. Hopefully we haven’t been rotten fish everywhere else,” Küpper sighed resignedly, “I’m flying back today.”
The men walked across the runway to the machine standing to the side. For the comrades close by and the ground crew it appeared to be nothing more than a test or service flight.
They climbed back into the twin-unit. Küpper was comradely helpful before he stepped back in order to give takeoff.
The cabin roofs closed, Reimer pushed the stick forward, the motor sang its droning song, the plane rolled forward, lifted itself from the ground, hovered, flew.
There was a lap of honor for farewell over the airfield and then a steep curve over the fjord. Three men flew with secret orders against an unknown fate.
The hum of the engines sounded monotonously. Wispy clouds sailed over deep beneath the plane, ridges and crevisses of the Norwegian mountains looming darkly from the depths. Vernäs and thus Trondheim were already far south.
Recke, as well as Gutmann on the other side, looked through the windos at the sky and the landscape, calling through the microphone, “We’ll probably be relieved of boredom for a while. But still, it was nice in Trondheim.”
“Yes, it was nice,” It was Gutmann who was talking over, “It was, because I don’t think we’ll ever see it again.”
“Oho,” sounded Recke, “Pessimist?”
“Never,” came back from the second cabin, “Just confident that our fate is to never return!”
Reimer kept a course along the coast. From Namsos he held against Mo. At the island of Vägen they sighted two southward steaming freighters, escorted by a destroyer. The Linzer flew deeper so the people below could easily see the Balkan Cross of the german Luftwaffe. Behind the ship there dragged a white, gusty stream.
West of the Sandhorn Peninsula, before Bodö at the entrance of the great Westfjord, Recke gave the carefully forsighted alarm, “Enemy aircraft side of us!”
Reimer immediately followed the direction indicated by Recke’s outstretched hand.
“Hostile reconnesance,” said the Linzer, “Who’s afraid of who now?” His light laugh sounded lik the cooing of a bird through the microphone. He jerked the still and chased the foreign plane.
“Are you insane?” barked Recke. His right hand clutched Reimer’s shoulder, “Think of our mission!”
For that very reason!” Within seconds Reimer showed a mischievous face. Thundering he flew towards the enemy. Upon the fuselage and tail surface shone over the British emblem.
The enemy must have had already noticed this strange aircraft with twin-hulls. He immediately changed his original course and tried for a bank of clouds lying seaward to escape. “Into the laundry room with him!” called Reimer cocky. He increased his flight speed to terrify the enemy even more.
The enemy craft fell for the bluff. It couldn’t have known that the remarkable invention of the Germans was a harmless unarmed plane. It tried clearly for the protective clouds. But no sooner had it disappeared into the white-grey bench that Reimer turned around and headed back toward the coast. Gutmann’s voice became audible, “That was swell and simple! Better than chickening out or getting others on our neck.”
Reimer crossed the mouth of the Ofotenfjord, flew over Tjällö, laying to the right of Narvik, and turned into the Solbergfjord. He’d already flown this route several months ago and knew he’d reach exactly the ONO, the airfield at the southern end of the Porsangerfjord.
Colonel Troll hadn’t said too much when he’d explained that he’d take care of the food personally or through Von Wendt. They were excellent and provided everything needed on a long flight, including reserves, in case they broke down over water – if that was even possible. Because no enemy contact was expected on this route from Narvik, the pilots could have a good snack.
When the landed later on the northernmost runway of the German Luftwaffe in Europe, everything was waiting and ready to fill up the fuel tank. Colonel Troll had advised them over the radio.
The first impression they had after landing wasn’t very encouraging. There had already been talk of abandoning the airfield and destroying most of it. Fuel shortages had come already from flights against the streets of Murmansk, and they had already had scout and troop messengers taken from a procedure of Soviet and Finnish troops in the northern zone. Appearantly, the Norwegian bastion of the north was being rolled up.
Nagging, swearing and depressed the members provided the pilo unit their necessary service. “We can’t even go home one more time with our aircraft,” whined the people during refueling.
“Well what do you want, then?” Gutmann threw out so casually, “There one be anymore airfields left in the homeland!”
“What a mess,” the people grumbled.
They stayed over night, and incidentally there was already a strange light and on the next morning their continued their flight. Even here, too, they got best wishes for their unknown flight.
“We keep holding North-West,” Reimer explained and Recke considered it, “Then you can open the orders!”
When the airfield was far behind them, Recke opened the brief. The order was: “…flight over the geographic and magnetic North pole, then approachment to Point-X (see position according to the enclosed sketch-map). Preliminary stay at the new base.”
“Where is this silly Point-X?” Reimer asked his comrade who sat behind him.
“Here in North-East Greenland!” Recke slid the sketch forward over his shoulder.
“I want to know too!” Gutmann turned from his cabin. Recke gave him his wish.
“We’ll want to keep reference with the larger map!” returned Reimer, “Watching out at the Spitzbergen!”
“I know, I know,” answered Recke. His eyes gleamed. The excitement over this great and dangerous mission had seized him. Now he understood why Major Küpper had put so much emphasis on their winter gear.
After a while Gutmann spoke over through the microphone, “Everything happens the way it’s designed and intended!”
“How do you mean, stargazer?” asked Reimer back.
But Gutmann merely remained quiet.
TN: All names of places here are real places in Norway. Trondheim is an old historical city on the Northern coast of Norway.
The word "jeep" is used for Kübelwagen, the "bucket-seat car" made by Volkswagen and designed by Porsche. It was heavily based on the VW-Beetle as its military counterpart, and its successor was the VW "Thing" of acclaim in the Americas.
The word Flak is the word used for anti-aircraft gun, an abbreviation of Flugabwehrkanone.
The Kriegsmarine was the German Navy during the second World War.